Creating a College-Going Culture in Middle School
Mary Beth Schaefer, The School of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Abstract: Right before the main entrance to Queens College, a short grassy rise provides a great view of the main gate. It's still early, but already two tight packs of seventh graders have arrived. They're laughing, but they do not move five feet from Mrs. Ophals, their school principal. Soon more students arrive. While waiting for their first college lecture, a football appears. Several students start throwing the ball around. Small clusters of students sit on the grass talking and laughing. And just when they look almost completely like "real" college students, Colin finds a big stick and starts jabbing the air. “Look at me,” he yells. “I’m a Ninja warrior!”
How do we include fun and play in meaningful college readiness activities for middle school students? Bring them to college for a week and offer them the opportunity to sample different kinds of college classes with real college professors, but without the pressure of a transcript. This was my goal when I set out to create a “College Immersion” program for middle school students. Over the next three years, I found that bringing students to college for a week in June gave them a sense of the rigors and expectations of college life while also giving them a chance to enjoy a week “away” from middle school. This experience of college addresses the call of the American College Testing’s (2008) report to improve college readiness skills in middle school. Using student surveys and conversations with teachers and professors, I examined their experiences in the College Immersion program. Do middle school student begin to acquire the college readiness skills, such as “Contextual Skills and Awareness” and “Academic Behaviors” that Conley’s (2007) work explains? How do teachers and professors experience this week together?
Three years of an on-going College Immersion program will be presented through pictures, articles and survey results. Samples of students’ schedules, college activities, and syllabi will be exhibited.